Sunday sales in Arundel unlikely Proposal appears headed for defeat in General Assembly

April 02, 1997|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

A proposal to allow Sunday car sales in Anne Arundel County is headed for defeat in the Maryland General Assembly.

The chairman of Anne Arundel's House delegation said yesterday that the group will not support a bill this year to allow Sunday car sales in the county, despite promises from used-car superstore chain AutoNation USA to bring more than 500 jobs if the measure was approved.

Without the support of the county legislators, the measure is virtually certain to be defeated in the House of Delegates. The legislation -- which was opposed by most existing car dealers in the county -- had been approved by the Senate.

Del. Phillip D. Bissett, the delegation chairman, said he does not plan even to call a vote on the Sunday car sales bill because the group has to spend the last days of the session focusing on other issues, including the Baltimore schools bill and the proposed state income tax reduction. The 90-day session ends at midnight Monday.

"Anne Arundel County stands to gain a lot from the Baltimore City schools bill and the income tax bill," Bissett said. "It's not the right time" for the Sunday car sales bill. But he said Anne Arundel -- and other counties -- could see such legislation in the 1998 Assembly session.

Bissett said there will be consideration next year to allow Sunday car sales in all Maryland jurisdictions. Only Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties now are allowed Sunday car sales; state laws ban them in all other jurisdictions.

AutoNation -- the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., used-car superstore chain owned by billionaire entrepreneur H. Wayne Huizenga -- wanted to set up a car lot and its regional reconditioning shop in Anne Arundel if Sunday sales were allowed.

In all, the two facilities would employ 560 workers and together would become the largest new employers in the county in more than a decade, according to the county Economic Development Office.

J. William Pitcher, a lobbyist who represents AutoNation, criticized Bissett's decision as "anti-business" and said it hurts only the county. AutoNation now is likely to look at other counties in Maryland or in other states for the two operations, he said.

"This doesn't hurt AutoNation at all," Pitcher said. "This has stopped a significant economic development project for Anne Arundel County."

About a month into the General Assembly session, Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary began pushing for Sunday car sales in his county at AutoNation's behest.

With facilities in Anne Arundel, AutoNation would have been able to compete locally with its strongest rival, CarMax, a Circuit City subsidiary that is building a large used-car operation near the Anne Arundel line in the Savage area of Howard County.

Last year, the General Assembly voted to allow Sunday car sales in Howard County to accommodate CarMax.

Bissett's decision was a relief to dealers locally and across the state, a majority of whom oppose repeal of the blue laws.

Of the 35 new car dealers in Anne Arundel County, 27 oppose the measure, one supports it and seven have no position on the issue, according to Joseph P. Carroll, executive director of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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